Later this week I will be attending a ‘This Is Who I Am’ event through Macmillan’s My Kinda Book which promotes upcoming young adult reads. One of the authors taking part in this event is Harriet Reuter Hapgood and I had heard great things about her debut novel, The Square Root Of Summer.
‘We’re on the cusp of summer, but I have the sense of an ending, not a beginning.’
The novel begins with its protagonist, Margot ‘Gottie’ Oppenheimer, settling into summertime in her sleepy seaside home. But it turns out to be quite an unusual summer. Gottie has lost so much and is in the process of trying to come to terms with recent events. In addition to losing her mother at a young age her beloved grandfather, Grey, passed away the previous summer. There is then her relationships with former boyfriend Jason and her friend Thomas and the complicated web of emotions she feels for them both. All this sounds like a lot for a teenage girl to deal with, but this is before we factor in the wormholes that cause Gottie’s world to fall further into confusion and a muddle of past memories…
‘This is the trouble with secrets – you can’t just reveal them and hope for normality. Even when exposed, they leave ripples in the universe, like a stone skimmed on the canal.’
This is an unusual story with an intriguing premise. Gottie begins to hurtle through time and space, wormholes resulting in her revisiting past memories which leads to confusion over what is real and what is not. There is an ambiguity to it and the reader is never quite sure what place Gottie is in as she tries to process everything that has happened to her. These events further complicate her life, her relationships and the way she sees the world. Gottie herself was an interesting character and with her love of science and physics she tries to explain what is happening as her world changes around her. I have to admit as I’m not much of a science fan I found some of this information confusing but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. I enjoyed reading her story and seeing how she learns to deal not only with her grief but her relationships, particularly that of her friend Thomas who having left years previously comes back into Gottie’s life, perhaps when she needs him most.
‘We are all alone in the world, except for the stars. They rush past us as we speed through time and space, heading to the future.’
The Square Root Of Summer is an enjoyable read about love, loss, and friendship – and a little bit of science! With its charming, eccentric cast of characters it is a weird and wonderful story about memories and learning to move forward.